He's a lawyer and a wedding photographer. So Matt Brenengen has two cool vantage points on the Minnesota economy. We asked him recently about the wedding business and he told us the signs he's seeing for 2010 don't look great.
Because most people plan their weddings months in advance, Brenengen has a window on how young adults are feeling about next year.
"I had two couples that had to cancel their weddings this year because they had gotten laid off and/or their investments tanked," said Brenengen, a source in MPR's Public Insight Network. "Normally, I would have 10-12 weddings booked by this time for the following year. So far, I have one."
No matter what the economy pundits predict for 2010, "each couple is looking at their own tenuous situation," he says.
"Remember, most are new to the job market, and either having a hard time getting a job, or are worried about holding their jobs (and) those parents who were paying for it have seen their retirement income slashed."
MPR News in February examined the recession and its effect on wedding decisions. Many couples were cutting back and being cautious about where they spent their dollars. Some were waiting it out for better times.
Given what Brenengen's seeing we asked some others in the wedding business what 2010 looks like. We found a mix of upbeat news and caution.
"About 20 percent of our 80 vendors have had record breaking years and 2010 is looking even more promising," says Adam Welz, president of the Central Minnesota Wedding Association. Most vendors, he said, reported that sales were stable from 2008 to 2009. "A small percentage had their worst year ever."
Two weeks ago we did our annual bride panel which is a panel of 5 newly married brides that get asked questions from were you shopped, what you spent, and what would you have done differently. The average wedding cost for our 5 brides was $29,000.We found that brides are still spending BIG money on whats important to them. Whether it's photos, food, flowers, DJ, etc. brides still see value in hiring professional vendors (and) are willing to pay if it's something they are passionate about.He pointed me to a surprising statistic: Despite a recession, the average cost of a wedding unexpectedly jumped 34 percent from $16,546 earlier this year to to $22,121 in the third quarter of 2009, according to a survey by theweddingreport.com. Increased demand plus October weddings contributed to the jump, the site said.
"While it is true that some wedding businesses we speak and work with are seeing a decline in bookings for 2010, most are thriving," adds Josh Franz, president of the Twin City Bridal Association.
Franz agrees that photographers and videographers seem to be having the toughest time while bridal shops and other apparel business seem to be fine.
Overall, "there are less wedding businesses out there as the weaker ones have gone out of business," he adds, "which has of course decreased our membership somewhat."
Brenengen hopes the economy and wedding spending roars back in 2010. "When that does happen, I am going to have a lot of open weekends for them..."
Are you in the wedding business in Minnesota? Or are you someone who's trying to make wedding plans in this recession? Post below and tell us what you're seeing, or contact me directly.
Minneapolis Tuesday opened the application process for its popular STEP-UP summer jobs program. Demand for the program is a barometer of sorts on how young people are faring in this recession and it's worth watching how many apply for summer 2010 and how many are hired.
These are paid summer internships. Young people ages 14 to 21 are matched with jobs in private businesses, government, non-profits and education
The jobs pay at least $7.25 an hour and those who make it in must attend a work readiness training session. Click here for an application.
Last summer, STEP-UP received 3,200 applications for 1,300 jobs.
"As for the almost 1,900 youth that we were not able to serve, that unmet need was higher than normal (about 400 applicants higher than '08)," said director Tammy Dickinson. "I attribute that to both the tough economy and better marketing and awareness of the program."
The goal for 2010 is 1,300 to 1,350 jobs "but that will depend on being able to recruit enough employers and work sites, as well as some state funding amounts," she added.
You can find more information on the program here.
The entry level labor market is getting more crowded as experienced workers are hit by layoffs, older workers delay retirement and brand-new college graduates seek employment outside their fields of study.
Recent research by the Federal Reserve of Minneapolisfound the recession accelerating the trend of teens simply leaving the labor force.
The Minneapolis Fed noted, "a tightening labor market hurts teen workers first and worst, because they tend to be on the bottom of the labor totem pole due to their lack of experience."
The dearth of opportunities for teens can also be seen in the rising interest in public jobs programs. An informal survey of Step-Up applicants (both accepted and rejected, conducted by program officials at the request of the fedgazette) found that many were having a difficult time getting a job. Said one 18-year-old applicant, "I never got so much as an interview before I did Step-Up."
Students are expected to be told in early March if they're in. Jan. 29 is the deadline to apply.
If you have any experience with STEP-UP or you're a teenager or young adult looking for work, please post below or contact me directly and share your story.